Interview with His Majesty King Abdullah II

Miroslav Caplovic
Kazakhstankaya Pravda
07 April 2009

Pravda: On 7 February 1999 you became the King. Your Majesty, you have been in power ten years. If you have a look at your first days as monarch and your first impression from the throne, was it difficult, at the age of 37, to reign over the country?

King Abdullah: My father, His Majesty the late King Hussein, always emphasised that our family’s role, as Hashemites, is to serve Jordanians and our Arab nation and to contribute to a peaceful world. And that was required of all of us in our own ways. In my case, I served in the Jordan Armed Forces, and I am very proud of the years I spent with them. So, I look at my job today as a continuation of national service, but on a larger scale, of course.

There has never been time to sit and consider whether or not things have been difficult or easy, because there is work to do. My father’s legacy is, of course, a country at peace, with highly educated, skilled and talented people. My task, and the task of everyone in government, parliament, and all other institutions is to continue to build on this foundation by widening the scope of development, building ties with friends around the world to increase trade and investment to create more opportunity for Jordanians … and to do whatever we can to help the rest of our region achieve peace.

Pravda: What personality has influenced you?

King Abdullah: My father of course was a tremendous influence and inspiration to me, and all my brothers and sisters. But I meet Jordanians every day who inspire me for different reasons. And I especially have the utmost respect and admiration for those in uniform who serve Jordan day and night, with a lot of sacrifice and little fanfare.

Pravda: Since you assumed your responsibilities as monarch, Jordan has been perceived increasingly in Europe as a modern monarchy. What is the key of your success?

King Abdullah: Jordan’s goal is sustainable development, and one of my fundamental beliefs is that sustainable development is one part policy and one part participation. So in Jordan, some of our major development initiatives involve the government and the private sector working together to improve, for example, the educational sector. Development also needs local communities to have a say in the policies that are directed at them. For this very reason, we recently initiated a decentralization programme to shift more of the decision-making authority from Amman to authorities in each region.

Participation is what gives policies relevance and it gives people at every level a stake in success at every level. When you bring people on board, you undermine the idea that reform and development produces winners and losers and change the equation to we all succeed together or we don’t.

Pravda: If you have to point out one success during your reign, what fruitful improvement of living standards of Jordanian people would you stress?

King Abdullah: My priority has been to provide Jordanians with the best life they can possibly get. So I have focused on equipping youth with the education and skills they need to compete and achieve and open new horizons, reducing poverty and unemployment and keeping the country on a steady course towards progress and development. Although we have achieved a lot, of course, there is always more to do.

In order to reach our development targets, we are working to involve all Jordanians in the process of deciding their future. We have also managed to forge a healthy partnership between the private and public sectors. They are working together to drive Jordan's development and to ensure that no part of our country is excluded from development by creating industrial/service hubs in each governorate that will stimulate local economies.

And we are right now targeting initiatives that will create opportunity throughout the capital, provide universal health care, supply housing for the underprivileged and civil servants and provide a social safety net for the poor.

Pravda: Probably a wider question: What are your expectations regarding your visit to Slovakia? Why do you pay so much attention to this small country in the heart of Europe? What is your opinion of the current and future of the Jordanian-Slovak relationship?

King Abdullah: This is my first visit to Slovakia, and I’m very much looking forward to it. I am here with a delegation of Jordanian officials, and we have a very full agenda. President Gašparovič and I will have a working meeting this morning. Later today, I plan to visit the National Council, and meet Prime Minister Roberto Fico.

This visit is part of a regional tour that includes the Czech Republic and Romania. Although Jordan enjoys warm ties with all three countries, we are keen to see how we can expand the avenues of cooperation; bilaterally and between the countries of the European Union and Jordan as well as the Middle East.

Our ties with Slovakia in particular are good, and there is a basic framework in place to begin developing economic and trade ties, for example. But much more can be done. I hope this visit will be a starting point for the two governments to begin building stronger ties in various sectors.

Pravda: Palestinians have suffered many decades, and Israelis still fear suicide and rocket attacks. What measures must be taken to resolve this bloody crisis? Why does the Middle East process often find itself at an impasse?

King Abdullah: There really is only one way to end the conflict. The parties must return to negotiations with the objective of ending the occupation of Palestinian land and establishing an independent Palestinian state.

Peace-making recently has suffered from a lack of political will. In particular, Israel has not made a critical decision about its future: does it want to be part of the region, or does it want to remain a fortress, isolated from its regional neighbours?

This is unfortunate because Israel has the opportunity today to achieve peace, not only with the Palestinians but with all 22 Arab states, who, in 2002 unanimously endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative. This expresses our strategic choice for peace and reflects our collective vision of the Middle East’s future – where all the states, including Israel, live together in peace and security and enjoy normal relations. The initiative proposes a broad framework of how to achieve this vision that addresses the interests and concerns of all parties to the conflict: Israel’s withdrawal from all Arab land occupied since 1967, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, collective security guarantees and the normalisation of relations between Israel and all her neighbours, and an agreed solution to the Palestinian refugee problem in accordance with UN resolutions.

Pravda: There is growing suspicion in the international community that Iran aims to produce a nuclear weapon. On the other hand, Israel conceals its arsenal of atomic weapons. Do you consider Iran as the threat to regional security, and what policy should Israel adopt to keep the peace?

King Abdullah: Jordan wants a region free of weapons of mass destruction. Any nuclear programme – whether it is civilian or military – should adhere to international treaties and conventions regarding the proliferation of nuclear arms and the development of nuclear capabilities. As far as it concerns Iran, there needs to be a diplomatic solution that contributes to the region’s stability and ensures balanced regional relations. Our region cannot afford another costly conflict. We want a region of peace, where relations among all states are based on mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of any other state.